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A series collects and retells the story of the ancestors of all South Africans.

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A recently discovered collection of writing of South African culture and history.

Muzila the Survivor: Son of Shoshangana


This book tells of Muzila, the son of Shoshangana, and the father of Nghunghunyani. After the death of Shoshangana, Muzila was determined to take control of the Gaza-Nguni kingdom from his brother, Mawewe. Following a bitter struggle, and many battles, Muzila assumed the kingship. Even though he was a master statesman and military leader, Muzila began to find it difficult to maintain full control of the vast Gaza kingdom.


Muzila the Survivor: Son of Soshangana

Muzila, the son of Shoshangana (or Soshangana, as it is now spelt), and the father of Nghunghunyani, had to fight his own brother for his kingdom. Read how Muzila battles it out with Mawewe to gain control over the Gaza kingdom. It was this bitter struggle that led him to make a deal with the Portuguese.

When Muzila got the news of the conspiracy between the Boers, Albasini and Mawewe’s supporters, he decided to act. Together with his brother, Mpisane, who had followed him with a strong army to the Spelonken, he hastily mobilised more Vatsonga volunteers and prepared for the return to the Gaza kingdom to take over the kingship.

Muzila prepares his people to return to the Gaza Kingdom.

This may sound like something that you young ones watch on TV. But this is not fiction; it is real. I hope you did not forget what I told you earlier on. Yes, I like kids who remember what I tell them! I said Albasini and the Boers under Kommandant-GeneraalSchoeman had earlier promised to assist Muzila in his endeavour to take over the kingship from Mawewe. However, this assistance never materialised, because both the Boers and Albasini were afraid to make Mawewe angry. They did not want anything to stand in the way of re-opening the trade route from the Soutpansberg to Mawewe’s territory.

His benevolent nature assured him of strong support amongst the Vatsonga.

The withdrawal of the promised support did not deter Muzila from his march to his home. It took courage for him to return home because of the tension that existed between the conquering Gaza-Nguni aristocracy and the Vatsonga. The Vatsonga were said to be followers of Shoshangana, hence the name Machangana or Shangaans. However, the tension between them and their conquerors had never been satisfactorily resolved. The Vatsonga were crying out for Muzila’s return to his homeland. His benevolent nature and the fact that he had Vatsonga blood flowing through his veins from his mother’s side, assured him of strong support amongst the Vatsonga.

So in October 1861, after a stay of about two years in the Soutpansberg, Muzila set out for the east. First, he went through eKhoseni, HosiMagudu’s territory, where he expected more support from his mother’s people. Magudu provided him with about 4500 armed men. Muzila sent the women and children who accompanied him from the Soutpansberg to the Varhonga territories of Matsolo (Matola) and Tembe near Lourenço Marques. Remember, Varhonga and Vatsonga belong to the same family.

As promised, the Portuguese provided him with 2000 rifles and 50 000 rounds of ammunition in return for his allegiance. Together with warriors from the Maxakeni and Maputsu people, who paid tribute to Portugal, armed men from HosiMahuntsi of the Makwakwa, and his own supporters from his home territory, he prepared to launch an attack on Mawewe. It was a heavily armed and reinforced combined army. On the other hand, Mawewe had the support of his mother’s people, the Swati.

Muzila’s forces pursued Mawewe’s men and his Swati mercenaries towards the Swaziland border.

On 27 November 1861 Muzila’s main army clashed with Mawewe’s armed forces, which had formed an alliance with the Swati at Vulolwane near Lourenço Marques. Muzila made it public that he was the rightful heir to the Gaza kingdom. He gained more and more supporters amongst the Vatsonga, and the war gained momentum. The armies fought along a line of nearly twenty kilometres from the beaches of Matsolo (Matola) to Moamba in the Nkomati valley. Meanwhile, a number of Mawewe’sMachangana regiments deserted him and joined hands with Muzila. Only a few half-hearted Mabuy’indlela men and Swati mercenaries remained with Mawewe. I can see now that you look confused by the name Mabuy’indlela. These were regiments that consisted of the Vatsonga and other ethnic groups that were considered inferior to the Nguni. They were seen as being expendable, and were always sent to the front as road openers by the Nguni aristocrats.

Mawewe was humiliated. He had no alternative but to flee to Swaziland

In a bloody battle that took two days, Mawewe lost about 7000 men. He retreated towards the south with Muzila in hot pursuit. Despite having fewer men than Mawewe, Muzila and his combined army had inflicted a shattering defeat on his half-brother. This later became known as the Battle of Moamba. The defection of a Moamba traditional leader, Mudlayi, who had been Mawewe’s ally, was bad enough. But the mass desertions of the Vatsonga men who joined Muzila and his allies made a crushing defeat a certainty. Mawewe was humiliated. He had no alternative but to flee to Swaziland to seek sanctuary from King Mswati, who was married to his sister.

Yet again, Mawewe’s ragged army are forced to retreat to seek assistance from Mswati

On 30 November 1861, Muzila showed up at a fort in Lourenço Marques to thank the Portuguese for their support in the war. He and his entourage had a friendly welcome from the governor. On 2 December he signed a treaty with the Portuguese in which he acknowledged Portuguese sovereignty over the land from the south as far north as the Nkomati River. In other words, he effectively became a Portuguese subject.

On 16 December 1861 Muzila, with the support of the Portuguese settlers and 300 Rhonga men armed with rifles, advanced towards Bileni. They clashed with Mawewe’s armed forces along the Nkomati River and defeated them on the same day. Again, Mawewe retreated in the direction of Swaziland to seek assistance from Mswati.

We haven’t seen the last of Mawewe, as you will see.

Additional information

Dimensions215 × 234 mm